July 2, 2014
So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 1 Corinthians 15:42-44
A strange and unique old bird, Martha, died in Cincinnati on September 1, 1914. She was 29-years-old.
Now before you get all upset with me for speaking disrespectfully about the dead, let me explain. Martha was not a person, she was a pigeon. More specifically, Martha was a passenger pigeon. At one time she would hardly have been considered to be unique. How could she have been "unique" when there were billions of other passenger pigeons like her? Indeed, in 1813, John James Audubon saw a flock of passenger pigeons so large it took three days for them to pass.
Sadly, loss of habitat, along with over-hunting, made it so Martha became the last of her kind.
When the old bird passed away, those folks at the Cincinnati Zoo who had loved her went into mourning. Part of their mourning involved freezing Martha's body in a great block of ice and sending her remains to the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C.
At that prestigious institution, Martha was stuffed and put on display for future generations to see. This they did because everyone knew the day of the passenger pigeon was over, and it would never come again.
Today I am able to tell you that what "everyone knew" may be wrong.
Geneticists working at San Francisco's Revive & Restore are dedicated to using leftover DNA from Martha and other stuffed passenger pigeons to grow and breed new birds from an egg. They predict it will take millions of dollars and ten years to do the job, but they don't care. They want to bring the passenger pigeon back from extinction.
I wish them luck.
At the same time this devotion would like to say that while it may be possible for science to reverse some of the wrongs humanity has done in the past, they will never be able to counteract the introduction of sin, which took place in the Garden of Eden. When it comes to restoring perfection, neither science nor any other human institution has that wisdom, authority or power.
That means, my friends, our destiny is worse than Martha's. When Martha died, that was it; she and her species were extinct. When the unsaved sinner dies, it is only the beginning of his suffering.
Indeed, no amount of time or money, nothing less than a miracle would enable us to escape the terrible punishment, which is our inescapable destiny.
Thankfully, we have a Lord who specializes in miracles. By His grace and through the sacrifice of His Son, we can be saved and eternal death can be a thing of the past. By the Holy Spirit's power and through Word and Sacrament we can be given faith in the Redeemer.
With such a faith in our hearts, Jesus' forgiveness washes our souls and brings us into the family of faith. As a member of that family, we need never fear death. We need not fear because God's gracious miracle has made it so we will live forever.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, I give thanks for the wonders science has brought about under Your guidance. Even more I wish to express my appreciation for Your Son whose suffering and sacrifice have forgiven my sins and granted me eternal life. In His Name. Amen.
The Savior asked His followers to share His story of salvation. Sadly, doing so can be frightening and intimidating. If you would like to learn how to be more comfortable fulfilling the Lord's request, Lutheran Hour Ministries is holding a SENT outreach conference in Detroit covering the dates of July 24-27. For more information, see www.lhm.org/conference.
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries